I know, we’ll open a place that is hard to find, so that people Come To US because that’s so IN, and very New York. A back alley or somewhere would be perfect. Then we’ll find an Executive Chef, someone we assume everyone has heard of, like Seth Levine because he was the Gareth Gates of some reality cooking show, and we’ll tell him to design a menu made of concepts, not dishes, with crazy names and ingredients that should never go together. Then we’ll find the best looking staff, who clearly don’t eat, and train them on how to stand around bored on their iPhones, all while remembering to bob their fashionable haircuts to the DJ. We’ll price it so high that only London’s finest will come here, and spend huge amounts. That’s it, we’re onto a real winner here.
I once had a night in Rose Club (thankfully now dead and buried), where Hotel Chantelle is now housed above, and it was the worst night out I’ve had. Dragged there from a friend who was down for the weekend and wanted to experience the glam of a ‘proper London club’ that’s where we ended up, paying £20 for house vodkas, cramped into some little dull basement watching rich Arabs and Russians ply blondes with Grey Goose, and getting their photos taken with the sparklers. It was horrific. A VIP lounge full of non-VIP idiots hoping to get a glimpse of one. Hotel Chantelle has managed to attract the same crowd. So if Rose club is for you, no doubt you will love this place. Grace Dent must have been drunk or on their payroll to compliment anything at this restaurant.
The only way a restaurant like this can work is if it has an incredible buzz. I hate STK and Aqua, but they have a good vibe, even if it is a coked up Essex vibe. Here though, the restaurant is so poorly located, and so badly designed once you do get in, that there was no buzz at all. The bar area is nothing more than a few bar stools, and there were empty tables throughout, despite it being 8pm on a weekend. This all makes the DJ even more pointless, as he’s blasting tacky House tunes to a half full restaurant. The interior designer has clearly been told to take their inspiration from brothels, and with the dim red lighting and row of blondes lining the bar waiting to be picked up, at least they’ve got something right.
The menu is an Instagrammers wet dream. The dessert menu even had the Instagram logo on. Any restaurant with that deserves it’s own special place in hell. It’s all concepts. Dishes that sound like they’ve been created by a hallucinating crack whore. Dishes you will cringe and hate yourself for ordering. Try ‘When Pigs Fly’ and ‘The Mad Lobster’. And then there’s the prices. Before I really start to whinge, let me tell you, that I am happy to pay over £100 a head if the restaurant deserves it. Now that can be a taster menu at a Michelin starred restaurant, or paying for the overall experience like at Scott’s or Zuma. Here starters begin at £11 and quickly get towards £20. Main’s range from the mid 20s to £100 for a steak for 2. No side dishes are included. Wine starts at £10 a glass and cocktails are £12.
The only reason I can think of why it is so expensive is to pay for the number of staff. I counted 18 on the floor, that’s not including the chefs, and there couldn’t have been more than 60 people in the restaurant. They all congregated by the DJ booth, half of them on their iPhones (the only excuse I can find for this is that it it has something to do with the ordering system?). There’s also a photographer who takes photos of everything except the empty tables. The waiters did try their best to justify the 15% service charge, but they were just no good at it. Everything you order is stamped with their seal of approval. I’d have liked to order a glass of piss, just to see if he told me again ‘Great choice Sir’.
So let’s get to the disaster of a meal. A car crash would have tasted better. First up, three stale pieces of bread with unsalted butter. I’ve had better, more imaginative bread in an aeroplane meal. For starters, my ‘When Pigs Fly’ was four flavourless strips of Iberico ham (think Tesco wafer thin ham without the flavour) hanging from pegs on a clothes line, with four dry crostins with a tiny slither of pickled melon on. Flavourless crap. Oh, and it was £17. A Tuna Tartare Cigar (£11) tasted worse than a real cigar would. The taco shell was like biting plastic, and the tuna had no seasoning, not even a squeeze of lime. The wasabi managed to not be fiery at all and yet still completely overpowered any other flavour in the dish. Chicken Waffles weren’t waffles. They were a poor-man’s Chicken McNugget with a stick wedged through it, wrapped in maple syrup candy floss. Why? Well, I don’t think even the chefs have an answer to that one. £14 for three chicken nuggets. Just imagine how many you’d get at the Golden Arches for that.
Mains managed to get worse. At £32 the rack of lamb was cooked well, but came with an incredibly sweet sauce that was laced with far too much cinnamon and rocks of sugar, making it really unpleasant to eat. It of course had truffle, this time in the form of honey, which was unidentifiable in the wash of cinnamon. Practically every dish here has some form of shaved truffle. I’m sure even the waiters wear eau du truffle, just to give the impression of luxury. A Drunken Chicken Parmesan (£25) was the worse dish of the night. The only thing drunk was the chef who served this. I wish I had the balls to send food back, because this would have disappointed if I’d bought it from the Sainsbury’s Basics range. One large flattened breaded chicken, a drizzle of dull pesto and a covering of rubbery cheese. All this made the breadcrumbs soggy. Most of it was left uneaten. And of course, even at that price, the fries (sorry, Pommes Frites- the pretentious tossers) come at £6 extra.
My Iberico Pork was the best dish of the night, but not without a series of faults. Firstly it was overcooked. Pork like this should come pink, not a dull grey colour. And whilst there was a good amount of meat, it was again ruined by an incredibly sweet sauce, and also by the inedible chunks of apple and bacon glass brittle glued to the plate. It was like a solidified super glue- hardly what you want with a £29 main course. We braved dessert, just because at £8 it was by far the cheapest dish of the night. Donuts with a trio of sugary dips- raspberry, dark chocolate and the stuff they put in Dime bars. Well it was alright. Well done, you got something half right.
At over £80 per head with just 1 drink each, this has to be the most overpriced, waste-of-money restaurant in London. I hate STK and Aqua, and Nobu isn’t much better. But at least their food is decent. This place is just all surface, and not a very attractive one at that. It feels like the reject list, where those not good looking enough for the real showy restaurants are sent to. Whoever owns this is laughing at all of us morons who are buying into it. But then again, there are so many morons who get off on this crap. As I was hurrying for the exit, two polished pretty boys who had come for the bar, commented on how good the food menu looked. Well, if that’s you, go and enjoy yourself down your little dingy back alley. The rest of London is better off without you. None of this is an exaggeration. Don’t go. It is without a doubt the worst meal I have ever paid for.
Dingy back alley near Selfridges,W1H 6HL